A big power reliability project is underway on Brindlee Mountain:

• Arab Electric is building a state-of-the-art new substation on Brashiers Chapel Road, according to manager Stacey White. It will improve reliability for existing customers and provide enough electricity for a new unnamed industrial customer expected to come online in the first quarter of 2022. The substation will cost about $6.2 million and should go online in November.

• To feed the new substation, TVA is building a new 161 KV transmission line from Guntersville Dam to the new substation at a cost of about $9.4 million.

“This is a perfect example of a partnership between a local power provider and TVA,” said TVA spokesman Scott Fiedler. “It shows the strength of the public power model. We do not sacrifice reliability for cost. Our focus is on ensuring power reliability for the people of the TVA region.”

The new substation has been in the works since 2016, White said. Arab Electric worked with TVA and Fisher Arnold Engineering of Memphis on the plans.

Eventually, the Brashiers Chapel substation will replace Arab Electric’s Main Street substation and, possibly, its Union Grove substation.

“We had to look at our best options for replacing the Main Street substation,” White said. “That substation was built in 1964 and it has outlived its life span by many years.”

She said Arab Electric customers receive adequate service from the Main Street substation, but extremes in cold and hot really push the substation beyond its limits.

“Historical peaks indicate we have experienced demand that exceeds maximum rating for the transformers at the Main Street substation,” White said.

Arab Electric is paying for its new substation with a combination of cash on hand and a loan through CSFC, a lender specializing in cooperatives.

“We started looking for land in 2018 and bought the 35 acres on Brashiers Chapel Road,” White said. That road runs between Arab and Scant City. The substation is on the Arab end. 

She said the new substation is also close to Hyco, one of the co-op’s large industrial customers.

The new substation will step the 161 KV voltage coming in from TVA down to Arab Electric’s nominal distribution voltage of 12.47 KV. The substation will have two 30-megawatt power transformers and six 12.47 KV feeder bays.

“Our area is growing, especially with the large industrial customer that is coming,” White said. “Without this upgrade, we would not be able to handle their load.”

She said TVA is building 7.7 miles of line to bring the power from the dam to the substation.

The substation is expected to be finished in November. The new transformers are being manufactured now in Pocatello, Idaho. White traveled to Pocatello to inspect them. 

“They are scheduled to be delivered in the next month,” White said.

Arab Electric has approximately 15,500 customers in 3 counties, Marshall, Blount and Cullman. Arab Electric has another big project currently underway. They are installing automatic metering systems at all their customers. Rather than a meter reader having to go by each meter each month, data about power usage will be fed automatically back to the co-op’s office. That project is running about $2.2 million

“We are seeing growth in the system,” White said, “and we are very excited about it.”

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